In the design of leadership development programmes, much time is spent (quite rightly) in the planning stages. Careful planning can help to produce detailed, structured programmes that have value ‘baked in’ to the design.
The problem with high levels of detail is they often leave little room for manoeuvre when, inevitably, the programme throws up some issues that hadn’t been considered. These issues may range from gaps in pre-requisite knowledge that weren’t realised to changes in individual or organisational circumstances that render parts of a programme pointless.
So how do we design programmes that are well planned, yet responsive to learners’ needs?
1. Build in contingency
Stuff happens when you least need or expect it. When planning a programme build in contingency time to deal with the issues. It may be the time is used to make up for cancellations elsewhere, or to build in new activities that wren’t part of the original planning.
2. Create a strong communication structure
If you are to adapt to changing requirements, you have to know about them! Build a structure that lets both learners and educators feed back on an ongoing basis. Hierarchical structures where educators collate learner feedback can be very useful, but risk misinterpretation, whereas open mechanisms collect everything but can be chaotic. Consider a structure that incorporates the best of each.
3. Review regularly
Milestone, gates, checkpoints, call them what you will, but plan to conduct them regularly. They need to be regular enough to react to ‘hot’ issues, but not so often as to create uncertainty. When the review suggests change is needed, make it!
4. Build an authoritative governance team
Programme oversight is essential, so build a team that represents the needs of the learners and the business and has authority to decide upon changes as the programme progresses.
5. Focus on value
Ultimately, the aim of your programme is to return value to the business. Question the programme activities regularly with this in mind and do not be a slave to a particular learning method or principle.